Pay as they go – the key to recruitment?

Last week’s snow prompted heated discussions on staff loyalty and motivation, so I thought you’d be interested in a business that gives a bonus to trainee employees who want to quit.

American company Zappos is an online retailer of shoes, handbags and such like. They’re big and highly successful, but the principle behind their recruitment strategy is valid. They only want people who are keen to work in the company, and they’d like to find this out sooner rather than later.

Zappos puts all new staff through a four-week induction process. At the end of the first week of training, writes CEO Tony Hsieh in his blog, ‘we make an offer to the entire class. We offer everyone $2000 to quit (in addition to paying them for the time they’ve already worked), and it’s a standing offer until the end of the fourth week…

‘We want to make sure that employees are here for more than just a paycheck. As it turns out, on average, less than 1% of people end up taking the offer.’

Now that shows a great deal of confidence in the company culture by both staff and management.  Small companies can’t afford the luxury of Zappo-style tactics; by the same token they cannot also afford employees who do not pull their weight. They need to recruit wisely, and possibly sift people at the outset, rather than bear the burden of disaffected staff. But they also need to create a workplace ethos that motivates employees.

Zappos is known for their corporate culture and an irreverent attitude – their website introduces top execs as ‘Meet our monkeys’. When the company was bought by Amazon for more than a $1 billion last summer, CEO Tony Hsieh emailed staff about the deal. ‘The headlines,’ he wrote, ‘though technically correct don’t really properly convey the spirit of the transaction. (I personally would prefer the headline “Zappos and Amazon sitting in a tree…”)

Jokes apart, do you think it is easier in the long run to weed out staff early – would you pay someone to leave your business?

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